Belgian Newspapers Claim Retaliation By Google After Copyright Victory

Greg Sterling on
  • Categories: Channel: Content, Google: Legal, Google: News, Google: Outside US, Legal: Copyright
  • Perhaps the lesson is: be careful what you sue for. The French and German-language Belgian newspaper consortium that successfully sued Google for copyright infringement got more than it bargained for this week.

    The newspapers’ content has been removed not only from Google News (as desired) but the entire Google index. Now the newspapers are crying foul, saying that Google is “retaliating” against them for their legal victory.

    On behalf of the newspapers an organization called Copiepresse sued Google in 2006 for copyright infringement. Copiepresse claimed that links to newspaper stories in Google News were hurting publisher traffic and ad revenues. Google lost the at the trial level and on appeal. Mountain View was ordered to pay daily fines of €25,000 for each infringement and day of non-compliance with the ruling.

    Google is now required to get permission from publishers to index their content in Google News in Belgium. However Google has entirely removed the websites of the involved publishers from its index, asserting that the court order requires it.

    The papers say they only wanted their content removed from Google News — not the Google search index entirely.

    The Associated Press quotes a Google spokesperson who says, “the court decision applied to web search as well as Google News . . . We would be happy to re-include Copiepresse if they would indicate their desire to appear in Google Search and waive the potential penalties.”

    It’s unclear whose interpretation is correct. But what is clear is that newspapers will suffer further traffic and revenue declines if their content and websites aren’t discoverable in Google search results.

    Postscript: AllThingsD reports that Google has now re-indexed newspapers in the Copiepresse group. This is the right move and also a very self-interested one by Google. If it were to “punish” publishers that didn’t want to be included in Google verticals (e.g., News, Places, Shopping) antitrust investigators would use that as evidence against the company.

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    About The Author

    Greg Sterling
    Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.